The two goals of virtually every business leader are more productivity from employees and more organic growth. But according to research giant Gallup, employee productivity at organizations worldwide has stalled over the past 20 years, while employee disengagement is now approaching 80 percent.
In fact, the landscape for driving productivity and growth from today’s workforce has become bleak enough that Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton took it upon himself to co-author a book with Gallup Chief Workplace Scientist Jim Harter, drawing upon data and insights from millions of employee interviews in the Gallup database as well as more than 300 interviews of chief human resources officers from companies worldwide. The result is It’s the Manager, and the simplicity of the title matches the message Clifton and Harter want leaders to take away.
“The problems with productivity and engagement are very fixable,” Clifton recently told the online business journal Thrive Global. “They are most directly influenced by great front-line managers, who are the ones responsible for engaging teams. Nothing works in the absence of great managers. And it is also about the people who manage the managers—leaders around the world have a tendency to name the wrong person manager and then train them on administrative things, not on how to maximize human potential.”
Interestingly, the way for managers to maximize employee potential while also making employees more fulfilled is to identify and then play to each person’s strengths across their daily responsibilities rather than trying to shore up their weaknesses—a tenet that 20 years of Gallup research has found produces the best results. “Today’s employees don’t really want free lunch, toys in the office, volleyball courts, or ‘bring your pet to work day,’” Clifton said. "They want the same thing their team leader wants from them: improvement. More broadly, what they really want is career development. And they want someone to take a real interest in their development, so change your management culture from being bosses to being coaches. Know each person’s strengths and build their work and careers around those strengths. If you wanted to tattoo a slogan on your management committee’s forearms, it should be this: Know me by my strengths. That will transform your culture.”
It’s the Manager has more than 50 recommended actions and bits of advice on how to approach culture, employee strategy, employment branding for recruitment, transforming managers from bosses to coaches, and the future of work as it relates to employee diversity, project workers meshing with full-time employees, flexible scheduling, and the various physical workplaces employees use.